At one time we were subjected to the minute details of people’s lives via blurry snapshots, scratchy home movies, handwritten letters, one-on-one conversations, or the ultimate memento of my youth: the brag book. Do you remember the brag book? It was a small notebook / album where a person could highlight accomplishments. Children would scribble and draw in theirs. Parents and grandparents would showcase photos.
Regardless of the method used, sharing info was simplified, sporadic, and personal.
We all still want to feel special and acknowledged – that has not changed. But now, social media allows us to make every intimate detail public and widespread. It puts each individual in the spotlight or at least it gives them that impression. Over the years, studies have been conducted on the allure and impact of social media. It serves not only as a connection with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, it has become an extension of who we are…and who we wish to be.
The reasons behind a status update vary as much as the personalities of the people posting content. But much like brag books of the past, the ultimate purpose is the same: we want to share a part of our life with others. We seek validation. We desire inclusion. And with the advent of technology, we are no longer happy with an ooh or ah from the onlooker. We crave notifications. The adoration is closely monitored and success is tabulated by the number of likes, comments, and shares.
There are countless types of posts. Some seek to:
- brag or be humble
- self-deprecate or show pride
- educate or learn
- share sadness or joy
- grieve or celebrate
- rebel or conform
- criticize or praise
- alienate or connect
- be vain or selfless
- spread hate or love
- be oblivious or aware
- complain or be grateful
Whatever the emotion or intent, online communities provide a vital opportunity for self-expression. And when those photos and links and status updates appear in a newsfeed, we devour the content. We click an emoticon and type a response. And then, too often, we compare. Are we keeping up? Are we on the same level? Are we ahead? Are we good enough? Are we interesting? Are we worthy? Are we popular? Do we matter?
Something to remember is this: we see almost every good thing and only some of the bad. Life is edited online. More people share good news than bad. And when they do, we capture a glimpse but not the entire picture. Perhaps even worse, comparison leads to dependence. We become needful of others – their actions, their thoughts, their ideals – to define our success or failure. When we link our worth to another person, we lose control, freedom, and a core part of ourselves.
Social media should be social. It should be interactive and for the most part, enjoyable. If you find yourself stressed and struggling with constant comparison, it may be time to re-evaluate your online activity.
1) DETOX: Train yourself to step back. Log off and stay off if that is what it takes. A break – ranging from days to weeks to months – can renew your appreciation and adjust your perception.
2) ACCEPT: Take whatever is posted in its most basic form. Photos of a luxurious vacation or beautiful family portraits are simply one seemingly perfect part of an otherwise imperfect life.
3) SIMPLIFY: Do not be afraid to monitor or block the posts of people and sites that spread negativity. Online relationships should foster a positive feeling and connect rather than divide.
4) UNDERSTAND: Some days you will shine bright. Other days it will be someone else’s turn. No one is perpetually on top of the world. We all fall and with help from others, rise again. Enjoy your moment in the sun. And when the time comes to be in the shadows, allow another to bask in the warm glow.
5) PRIORITIZE: Popularity and personal success are not based upon shares, likes, or comments. Your contributions to this world are not measured online. More importantly, they do not always need to be shared in an open format in order to be recognized by those who truly matter.
The smile on your child’s face. A loving partner. The joy in your work. A comfortable home. Good health. Family fun. Friendships. Faith. Independence. Facing challenges and overcoming adversity. Bravery. Confidence. Appreciation. Gratitude. Whether we do it in public or private, these are the true markers of living well.
LIFE is not a competition. Everybody wins.
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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE